After storm hits, he holds on for daughter's wedding

Published May 9, 2007

GREENSBURG, Kan. - Officer Robert Tim Buckman was rushing to warn rural residents about the approaching storm when the tornado swept up his squad car and flung it 300 yards into a field.

The 46-year-old officer hung on long enough for his daughter's "promise" wedding at his hospital bedside, then died of his injuries Tuesday morning, said his son, Derick Buckman, .

"He died being a hero, " Derick Buckman said. "He was sworn to protect people and that's what he was doing the night he got picked up by a tornado."

The tornado killed nine people in Greensburg as it obliterated the farming town Friday night, and it was blamed for another death outside town.

Derick Buckman, a 25-year-old firefighter, said he talked with his father by phone as Robert Buckman was on his way to warn residents in two rural houses to get to safety.

"The last words out of his mouth that anybody heard of him before he was found were, 'I can't get away from it. It's too big. I'm screwed.' And then his phone and his police radio went dead."

The rural residents Robert Buckman was trying to warn on Friday were unharmed, his son said.

Before Robert Buckman was removed from life support on Tuesday morning, his 18-year-old daughter was married at his bedside, Derick Buckman said.

"He was there with his daughter to give her away, " he said.

The family's preacher presided over the ceremony for Kylee Buckman and Josh Mondello, 22. Though the couple exchanged vows and "promise" rings, an official wedding is set for August.

Another son-in-law, Army Pfc. Seth Cole, had been scheduled to deploy for Iraq on Tuesday and said he was initially denied leave Monday to be with his wife and her family. On Tuesday, his commanders at Fort Stewart, Ga., agreed to a deployment delay so he could attend the funeral.


Presidential visit: President Bush is to tour the damage today.

Victims: In addition to Buckman, others identified were Claude Hopkins, 79; Larry Hoskins, 51; David Lyon, 48; Colleen Panzer, 77; Ron Rediger, 57; Evelyn Kelly, 75; Sarah Thackett, 71; Beverly Volz, 52, and Richard J. Fry, 62. Search and rescue operations continued Tuesday. The last day anyone was found alive in the wreckage of Greensburg was early Saturday.

Housing: Five trailers to house displaced families have arrived, and 20 more are on the way, said FEMA Director R. David Paulison.